Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered review: An icon reborn

Like many other titles in recent years, Modern Warfare has gone through the "remaster," bringing an old favorite up to scratch for the new generation. It's more than just that, though, as being reborn in this way brings a classic to the attention of a new generation of gamers.

Not all remasters are created equal, though, and while the excitement for Modern Warfare Remastered has been immense in the run up to its launch, has Activision done Captain Price and Soap proud with its 2016 update?

Modern Warfare

Modern Warfare Remastered

Those new to Call of Duty with recent franchises may not be totally aware of the series' past. While 2016 brings an abundance of complaints about future-based combat, jet packs, and spaceships, Call of Duty once was a historical shooter.

With Call of Duty 4, Activision brought it out of the past and into the present, hence the title. Modern settings, modern protagonists, modern weapons, Call of Duty had arrived in the here and now of 2011 with a bang.

The rest is history.

Legendary campaign

Modern Warfare Remastered

While modern Call of Duty is perhaps more about the multiplayer longevity than epic campaigns, Modern Warfare had one of the finest single-player games of its kind. And it still does. Better yet, it's still just as enjoyable to play through now as it was all those years ago.

You play the majority of the campaign as Soap, a crack SAS soldier, with his commanding officer Captain Price and Sgt Paul Jackson of the U.S. Marines. With you throughout is Price's right-hand man, Gaz, though you never play as him.

The story is based around conflict in Russia and the Middle East, taking in a variety of different settings for its missions. One minute you're on a ship, then you're in a town in the desert, then on a covert ops mission in Pripyat. Without giving away details, because if you haven't played it, it's excellent, the story is engaging and well written.

And it's every bit as much in 2016 as it was in 2007. It's also a huge change of pace to the more frenetic, futuristic Call of Duty campaigns of recent years. It's still challenging, but in a very different way.

2007 with a 2016 makeover

Modern Warfare Remastered

The biggest part of the remaster for Modern Warfare is without a doubt the visuals. This is a 9-year-old game from the early years of the Xbox 360 brought back to life for the new generation, and the difference is startling.

Call of Duty will never win awards for being as searingly beautiful as something like Battlefield 1, but Modern Warfare Remastered definitely looks the part for the current day. All levels and multiplayer maps have been given a serious lick of paint, with improved colors, textures and details galore. Not only do the characters look and move better, but so too the environments.

It's the little things, but the improved grass swaying in the breeze, the way a piece of litter drifts across the streets of a desert town, it just feels terrific. Not the best looking FPS by any stretch, but it feels like a whole new world. In a nine year old game.

Modern Warfare

What Modern Warfare used to look like.

It is a little rough around some of the edges, though. Maybe that's 2016 brains programmed to think what should happen instead of what does happen. But in multiplayer, for example, you'll just bump into things that you can't jump over, even though there's no real reason why you can't. Or your team mates will just get in the way and you can't get round them, forever a brick wall obstructing you.

But largely it's a hit. For the most part it looks and feels on par with Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare, very much a present-day Call of Duty.

Multiplayer mayhem

Modern Warfare Remastered

At launch Modern Warfare Remastered comes with 10 of the title's multiplayer maps. More are set to be added at a future date, but for now you've got this little lot:

  • Crash
  • Backlot
  • Ambush
  • Downpour
  • Overgrown
  • Shipment
  • Bog
  • Vacant
  • District
  • Crossfire

The multiplayer is a very different experience to Infinite Warfare and last year's Black Ops 3. It is, after all, from a time before jet packs, power slides and energy weapons. Each of the 10 maps are available to all players, with the usual unlocks of new weapons and loadout slots becoming available as you level up. Hit level 55 and you're into Prestige and the cycle continues.

Much of the mechanics are similar to any of the current day Call of Duty games, but simplified. You still customize your loadout with weapons, tacticals and perks, but there's much less to get into than you'll find in Infinite Warfare. It's refreshing.

Initially the actual gameplay experience was pretty horrid. The servers, at least in my experience, weren't up to the task and each round was full of lag and frame rate issues. Trying to eliminate an opponent who just suddenly disappears then reappears behind you gets beyond annoying after a while.

While it hasn't completely gone, things just over a week in are much better. There have been a couple of patches pushed out and for the most part it's business as you'd want it. The balance feels right, time to kill on point and Modern Warfare Remastered delivers a satisfying multiplayer experience.

For those crying out for that "boots on the ground" Call of Duty for 2016, here it is. And it's glorious.

The bottom line

Modern Warfare Remastered

It's not the easiest thing to do, reviewing a nine-year-old game. Long time fans of the franchise are already familiar with it, and there's not a lot that's actually new to talk about. But what Activision has done here is thrown the Call of Duty community a bone rather than a whole new game so many are extremely vocal for.

Whatever your opinions on the path the Call of Duty franchise is taking, Modern Warfare Remastered is superb. It might be seen as a cheap trick by some to simply roll out a popular old game with a fresh look for the current crowd, but we'd be worse off if Activision hadn't done this.

The campaign is still just as epic as before. The multiplayer is tremendous and offers a whole different challenge to its sibling, Infinite Warfare, with a much different way of approaching the game and your tactics inside it. And it looks terrific, especially if you look at it nine years ago first.

The question here, sadly, isn't "should you play it," but "should you shell out for the Infinite Warfare Legacy edition to get it?" Assuming you actually will play Infinite Warfare as well, it's a no-brainer. The Legacy package is excellent value with two full Call of Duty games and the new Zombies in Spaceland.

But if you truly, genuinely aren't interested in the new title, it's a lot of money to spend on something from 2007. Activision doesn't sell it separately and there's no word right now if it ever will. It's tough to recommend you spend the money if you're not going to enjoy everything in the package.

But that doesn't change what this is. An icon reborn.

See at Microsoft

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at